In 1980, Sen. Paul Tsongas challenged the liberal wing of the Democratic Party to come up with new ideas and a new agenda. He said too many liberal Democrats were disconnected from reality, with a list of goals that was more a theological litany than a politically practical program for action. How right he was, and how ignored.
He hopes he'll get a more respectful hearing now. He is a presidential candidate, not just a Senate back-bencher in the shadow of his Massachusetts colleague and liberal cheerleader, Sen. Edward Kennedy. More important, in the three presidential elections since Senator Tsongas unsuccessfully urged Democrats to come up with a new politics, the party has lost by a landslide, by a landslide and by a landslide.
Candidate Tsongas advocates some ideas that are anathema to most Democrats. He is for a capital gains tax cut, for example, and nuclear power. More interesting than the details is the tone of his campaign. By calling for getting the nation growing and prospering again, rather than demanding first that the pie we have be divided more equitably, by looking ahead more than back, he is in the tradition of another ethnic Massachusetts Democrat who ran for president. We don't mean Michael Dukakis. We mean the man who said, "A rising tide lifts all boats." John F. Kennedy.